The Oceanfront Lands in Squamish, with its stunning panorama of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains, look set to be developed by two companies following a long-awaited decision from the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation (SODC).
Matthews Southwest Developments, a Texas-based company with offices in Calgary and Mississauga, and Bethel Lands Corporation, a Squamish-based firm, submitted the proposal chosen after an 18-month selection process.
"It's very exciting... I think this is a really key and pivotal moment for our community," said Squamish mayor Rob Kirkham. "Part of our council's mandate was to take the Oceanfront to the marketplace, recognizing that the District of Squamish doesn't have the development capability and we needed some powerful partners to get there."
Council directed SODC to find the right partners and the project was taken to the international marketplace, leading to seven expressions of interest, Kirkham said.
Over the next six months, the district will work with Matthews Southwest and Bethal Lands "to develop the transaction." This includes the financial side of the agreement, which Kirkham was unable to discuss.
"That's the next process, the next stage," he said.
Kirkham added that both companies support the current subarea plan put forward for the 23.9-hectare piece of land, which the mayor described as being "one-third parks, one-third employment and one-third residential... the Oceanfront is a rejuvenation piece for us." A university or college is part of the plan, as well as a marina and arts space.
The current subarea plan is in its second rezoning reading with the council.
"We had intentionally stopped at the second reading of the rezoning to allow for any possible slight tweaks or adjustments with a partner. We will proceed with the rezoning now as part of this process," Kirkham said.
The Oceanfront Lands were purchased by the District of Squamish from previous owner Nexen in 2004 for the nominal sum of $3. The chemical plant on the property produced chlorine, caustic soda and hydrochloric acid.Nexen carried out a $40 million cleanup of the lands following its closure in 1991.
In terms of their previous work, Matthews Southwest Developments recently completed the $1.4 billion Bow development in Calgary and Bethel Lands built Squamish's Amblepath subdivision and Quest University residences. The company is currently involved in the Sea to Sky Gondola project.